Union Minister for Human Resource Development Ramesh Pokhriyal on Friday urged private schools to reconsider annual fee hikes amid the nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It has been brought to my notice by many parents from all across the country that even in this time of crisis many schools are increasing their annual fee,” Pokhriyal said in a series of tweets. “A lot of schools are also asking the parents to deposit the school fee for three months together.”
He requested schools to join hands to fight the coronavirus and empathise with parents amid the global disaster and reconsider their decision.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also urged people to prioritise human values in the time of this epidemic, the Union minister said, adding that he hoped all schools would provide timely salaries to their teachers and employees. “I also hope education departments of all states will work together towards the best interests of parents and schools,” he said.
Pokhriyal praised some states for taking positive steps “to address school fee-related issues during lockdown” and hoped that other states will also consider his request.
The number of people infected with the coronavirus rose to 13,835 with 452 deaths on Friday evening, according to the health ministry. Out of the total number of cases, 11,616 patients are being treated, 1,766 have recovered, and one person has migrated.
The Central Board of Secondary Education also advised states and Union Territories on Friday to examine the matter of school fees and payment of salaries to teachers “sensitively and holistically”, according to PTI.
“Keeping in view the present situation of the countrywide lockdown, and difficulties being face[d] by all stakeholders in the school education system due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, it is requested that the state governments may examine the issue of lumpsum payment of school fees and teacher’s salaries sensitively and holistically considering the interest of all stakeholders concerned,” CBSE Secretary Anurag Tripathi said in a letter.
“The States and UTs may consider issuing suitable instructions on periodicity of payment of school fees and payment of salaries to the teaching and non-teaching staff to be applicable during the period of the pandemic,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said private schools in the Capital will not be allowed to alter their fee structures and can only charge the tuition fee until they reopen after the nationwide lockdown ends, The Indian Express reported. The decision was taken under the Delhi School Education Act and the National Disaster Management Act, he said.
Sisodia, who holds the education portfolio in the Delhi government, said schools cannot charge additional fees for transport or for other miscellaneous activities, which are not being utilised during the lockdown period.
“We have decided that no private school, whether on government or private land, will be allowed to hike fees without seeking permission from the government,” Sisodia said at a press conference. “Schools also cannot charge beyond the tuition fee and no school can charge three months’ tuition fee [at a time], the fee has to be collected monthly,” he added.
The education minister also said all schools should pay salaries to their entire staff, including those who work on a contractual basis. “If they [the schools] are short of funds, they can reach out to their parent organisation for funds,” he said.
Taking cognisance of complaints that some schools where parents were unable to pay their children’s fee are disallowing students to take online classes, Sisodia said: “Private schools don’t need to stoop so low. You are run by a trust and your basic mandate is to do social service,” Sisodia, adding that no student should be barred from taking virtual lessons.
Delhi, which is the second worst-hit region in India, has reported 1,640 Covid-19 cases, including 38 deaths as of Friday morning.